Okay, the first thing I have to say is, hang in there with me for a few minutes. I know you are thinking, make your own cheese? REALLY? Here on this blog where I have said about a million times, it’s all about getting in and out of the kitchen in 30 minutes or less? Has she finally eaten one too many piece of bacon and gone off her rocker?
Hang in there with me while I promise you these three things:
1. If you can boil water, you can make your own ricotta cheese.
2. It will take you less than 15 minutes from start to finish.
3. It will taste so good, you will wonder why on earth it took you so long to figure out that you should have been making your own ricotta cheese for the past hundred years.
4. It will take all your willpower not to stand there next to your bowl of delicious fresh ricotta and not eat it all in one fell swoop.
Okay, that’s four things, and I have no idea what a fell swoop is. But you get my drift. Try it with me just once, and I promise you will be hooked for life. Here’s what you do.
Get out your handy strainer and put it in your sink. Line it with a little cheesecloth, which you can find in your supermarket, sometimes with the baking stuff and sometimes with the laundry stuff, for mysterious reasons. I usually fold it into a square that has about 3-4 layers until it looks like this. This will take you two minutes.
Now take a nice heavy saucepan and pour in 4 cups of whole milk, one cup of buttermilk, and 1/3 cup of heavy cream. Set it on the stove and put the heat on to medium high and bring it to a boil. In the early going, you may want to clip a candy thermometer on to the pot so you can watch the temperature, because when the temperature gets to about 185 degrees, the curds (the solid part) will have separated from the whey (the liquid part), and it’s time to strain it. If you don’t have thermometer don’t fret, because you can pretty much see it happening. The milk mixture will boil, and it will gradually curdle and separate into the solids (the curds) and the watery looking liquid (the whey). This will take about 10 minutes…sometimes less. When it does, take the pot off the burner and reach for your handy slotted spoon, and start scooping out the solids, letting the liquid drain off. Drop the spoonfuls of solids into your strainer.
I like to sprinkle a little coarse salt onto the cheese every couple of spoonfuls or so. Once you are done, let it drain for about 2 minutes (if you like your ricotta moist) or 5 minutes (if you like it drier). You can leave it right in the strainer, or you can be like I was when I first made it and hang it dramatically from your kitchen faucet (see picture above). Taste it after a few minutes…if it’s gotten too dry just stir in a tablespoon or two of milk, and if it’s too moist for you, let it keep draining.
Fifteen minutes have now passed, and you have made your own ricotta cheese.
And if you are like me, you will never even LOOK at those ricotta containers in the supermarket again.
Things you can make with your glorious ricotta include…
Summer Lasagna. A cool lasagna that includes fresh zucchini, sweet little cherry tomatoes, basil from your back yard…and ricotta.
Zucchini Carpaccio. Almost as fun to pronounce as it is to eat. Almost.
Or you can cook up some soft scrambled eggs with fresh chives and during the last minute of cooking, swirl in some ricotta. Heaven.
Or you can just stand there at your kitchen counter and eat it with the closest available spoon. I may or may not have done this at times.
Happy fresh ricotta. No fear!